Hindu Gods do not anthropologically come from the upper caste, said JNU Vice Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit while delivering the keynote address at the B R Ambedkar Lecture Series organised by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Speaking on the topic “Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Thought on Gender Justice: Decoding the Uniform Civil Code”, Pandit said, “Anthropologically, scientifically… please look at the origins of our gods. No god is a Brahmin. The highest is a Kshatriya. Lord Shiva must be a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe. Because he sits in a cemetery with a snake… they have given him very little clothes also to wear. I don’t think Brahmins can sit in the cemetery. So if you see, clearly, the gods anthropologically do not come from the upper caste. Including Lakshmi, Shakti, all the gods. Or if you take Jagannath, very much a tribal. So, why are we still continuing with this discrimination, which is very, very unhuman.”
The JNU VC also said that the “Manusmriti” has categorised all women as “shudras”, which is “extraordinarily regressive”.
“All women, according to the “Manusmriti”, are shudras. So, no woman can claim she is a Brahmin or anything else. I believe it is only by marriage you get the husband’s or the father’s caste on to you. I think this is something extraordinarily regressive,” she said.
In her speech on Monday, Pandit referred to the recent death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy in Rajasthan after he was allegedly assaulted by his upper-caste teacher.
“Unfortunately, there are many people who say caste was not based on birth, but today it is based on birth. If a Brahmin or any other caste is a cobbler, does he immediately become a Dalit? He doesn’t…. I’m saying this because recently in Rajasthan, a young Dalit boy was beaten to death just because he touched the water, didn’t even drink, touched the water of an upper caste. Please understand, this is a question of human rights. How can we treat a fellow human being in such a way?” she said.
Referring to Ambedkar’s landmark “Annihilation of Caste”, she said, “If Indian society wants to do well, annihilation of caste is extraordinarily important… I don’t understand why we are so emotional of this identity that is very discriminatory, very unequal. And we are ready even to kill somebody to protect this so-called artificially constructed identity.”
Speaking about the intersection of caste and gender, she said, “If you are a woman and you come from the reserved categories, you are doubly marginalised. First, you are marginalised because you are a woman, then you are marginalised because you come from a so-called caste, which is given all kinds of stereotypes.”
According to her, Buddhism proves the acceptance of dissent in “Indic civilisation”.
“I think Buddhism is one of the greatest religions because it proves that the Indic civilisation accepts dissent, diversity and difference. Gautama the Buddha was the first dissenter against what we call Brahminical Hinduism. Please understand he was also the first rationalist in history… we have a tradition revived by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar,” Pandit said.
Pandit, who knows Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Hindi, Sanskrit and English, was earlier Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the Savitri Phule Pune University. This February, she was appointed as the first woman VC of JNU for a period of five years. Her areas of research include international relations, Asian studies, culture and foreign policy, conflict, violence and gender.